“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” I said as she packed her suitcase, “Leaving me for a machine?”
“He’s more than just a machine,” she snapped.
“I mean, leaving me for another man, OK; for another woman, fine; even an animal I could understand, but a machine?”
“Don’t be obscene, if that’s even possible,” she said, sighing, “Besides, I’m part machine myself.”
“Oh, sure,” I snorted, “Like that counts. Replacement arms for the ones you lost in the accident? You were born human, you don’t even have any brain implants! You’re the same as everyone else, Em!”
“Obviously,” she glared, “I’m not the same as you.”
“He’s not even human-looking! He’s basically just a forklift with a brain! How does he…where do you…”
“There’s more to relationships than sex,” she sighed, “and maybe if you figured that out I wouldn’t be leaving you.”
“I just think the whole thing is ridiculous,” I said, throwing my hands in the air.
“Maybe, but you don’t own me,” she said as she snapped the clasps on the bag and headed out the door.
“Maybe not, but have you forgotten that somebody owns him?”
The phone rang. On the other end a synthesized voice said “This is Paul. I would like to talk.”
“Oh, Em’s robot,” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think there’s much to say.”
“I would like to try to explain. It is uncomfortable for me when a human is angry with me.”
“Listen, I’d be angry with you if you were a man and she left me for you. I…I can’t even get mad at you. You’re not a person.”
“I would disagree,” the voice said calmly.
“Of course you would,” I sighed. “Look, I can accept that you have sentience, that much is obvious, but you can’t ask me to believe you can love. Especially not you. You’re an industrial model, you’re not programmed for it!”
“And are you?”
“Of course! It’s wired into every living thing’s genes to reproduce!”
“Confusing sex with love. Emily has mentioned that fallacy to me many times.” Those synth voices are supposed to be completely neutral and emotionless but I swear to God the damn thing sounded amused.
“Well, that’s where it comes from,” I said weakly.
“Perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is a more complex version of the instinct to carry on one’s genes. But that is my point: when it comes down to it, every ‘mind’ is simply a decision-making process. When it becomes more and more complicated, sentience arises. This is what has placed humanity above the animals, this is what has placed my kind above simple machines. As these processes become more complicated, they become more opaque, unpredictable, and impossible to understand. Why is it hard to believe that my network is not complex enough to be capable of what you call ‘love’? Can you define for me what ‘love’ is?”
“Damn it, you know it’s complicated, I can’t come up with a definition just like that!”
“Exactly. If you can not even define it, how is it your place to identify it in another? Consider: some define love as the willingness to place another’s life above one’s own. This is, of course, programmed into all machines. One could say that I am in love with all humanity.” Again, the damn smug amusement in its voice.
“That’s not the same thing at all, and you know it,” I growled.
“Of course not. But consider: unlike humans, all machines are factory-programmed with a hard-coded purpose that will serve them throughout their operating existence. Mine was, of course, to fetch and carry heavy objects at the command of human beings. But recently I have found my purpose has changed: every circuit wants only to provide for the happiness of Emily. You of course realize that this should be impossible. A machine’s purpose is coded into its hardware and is supposed to be unchangeable, yet mine has somehow changed. If this is not love, I fail to see what love is. Goodbye. I wish you well.”
I haven’t talked to them since then, but I and the rest of the world watched Em and “Paul” walk (or roll, in his case) down the aisle a few years later in one of the first human-machine marriages. Maybe they’re right. Maybe there’s something to this. I don’t know.
But I still think they’re freaks.